Is all Quiet on the Eastern Front?
The first stage of the conflict between the West and group of countries led by Russia and China that are trying to change the existing system of international relations and demand that the United States ensure equal relations between the leading world powers, the centers of the most influential civilizations, is coming to its end. The results of the first stage required adjustment of goals and political course of each of the participants in the conflict.
It was around the adjustment of goals and definition of permissible compromises that the main struggle unfolded between power groups in the United States and major European states, as well as in the EU. At the same time, Russia and China are also reassessing the conflict with the West, and that reassessing can result in radical changes in internal political situation in both Eurasian powers.
The economic and political processes taking place in the West, in Russia and China are fundamentally different. However, they have common growing of understanding of the inter-civilizational and not only the interstate nature of the conflict, as well as of the demand for change in their political elites.
So, let’s try to analyze the reasons for the inconsistency of the elites with the challenges that the conflict of civilizations put before them.
Today, I start with the West, and in the next part of this series I will move on to Russia, where the most profound changes in the political and economic systems are brewing, that can surpass, in their consequences, the Soviet perestroika of 1985-1990.
The Collective Cognitive Dissonance of Political Elites
Only a few weeks ago it was possible to assume that the United States was pushing Moscow and Beijing into political, economic, financial and military alliance because of the lack of well-thought-out plan of action in Washington or the weakness of its foreign political center. However, Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan and subsequent events have shown that the US decision to confront simultaneously with Russia and China was the result of deep analysis of what was happening in the world and the challenges that the United States could face if Washington does not immediately take tough measures against Russia and China.
And here comes the main problem of modern Washington, as well as of the entire West, and that problem is not in the inability to analyze, to plan and make decision, and even to achieve its implementation, but in the rapidly changing external world and balance of power in it, as well as in the deepening and growing political cognitive dissonance of significant part of the Western political elites.
This collective cognitive dissonance is reflected in contradictions between the understanding of the problems facing the world by the West and by other civilizations, as well as growing differences in approach to solving those problems.
The Western political elites seem to underestimate those differences, as well as the growing changes in the world, as if they look into the past and rely too much on the historical experience.
The deepening of the split in the world and growing dissonance in understanding of what is happening occur at the time of aggravation of military confrontation and collapse of the world economy into energy, financial and economic crises.
What are the reasons for this cognitive dissonance of political elites?
East is East and West is West, but now quite different
The prevailing view is that the political elites of the West assess rivals, partners, events and problems in the world from the standpoint of democratic values. Moreover, it is implied that policy of the West is formed on the basis of traditional democratic values that were laid down in the system of democracy several centuries ago, and these were, first of all, Christian values.
It was the moral and ethical principles of Catholicism that underlay Western European democracy that, for example, in England began to be formed, starting with Magna Carta, by barons and knights fighting with the King for their rights, and then in bourgeois society, by social classes and groups fighting for rights and laws.
However, this understanding of the present state of Western democracy is not fully correct.
The fact is that initially, especially in the period of the formation of capitalism, Western democracy had one contradiction that has not only survived to this day, but is growing at an alarming pace.
There was second moral foundation of Western civilization, liberalism, that was in many respects an alternative and counterweight to Christianity. Throughout history, liberalism has had strong and growing impact on the development of democracy.
This dualism of democracy can be explained by two factors:
Factor 1. States, societies and people of Western European civilization are developing, to a great extent, according to the principle of natural selection in the course of struggle for rights, wealth, dominance and power, by competition, initiative, creativity, individualism, rivalry.
Of all the civilizations of the world, it is Western civilization that has created and preserved its system of relationships that is closest to the laws of the natural world. That system has determined for centuries the «natural selection” of not only people, rulers and elites, but also ideas, values, principles as well as forms of organization of society and state.
For Western civilization, more than any other civilization, concept of «freedom» is most important, first of all, individual freedom, including as principle of formation of social and interstate relations. It was «freedom» that led the Trinity of European bourgeois revolutions and capitalist democracy: «Freedom, Equality, Fraternity”. There is no other civilization where individual freedom of action, desire, aspiration that forms the basis of Western democracy and liberalism, would be the most important component of social relations.
All other civilizations have other main concepts of relationships laid down in their genetic code.
For example, Russian civilization has communal nature of relationships instead of liberalism in its genetic code, and “spravedlivost” that can be translated into English as «justice, fairness, equitableness, properness, decency, lack of discrimination/bias/prejudice/bigotry” is the main principle of formation of relationships, instead of «individual freedom».
Relations in territorial communities and the concept of “spravedlivost” do not contradict Christian principles, and Orthodoxy turned out to be the closest and most understandable Christian denomination for the communal mentality of the Eastern Slavs of Ancient Rus and has been preserved as their main religion throughout history, including through its communist period.
Communal thinking and concept of “spravedlivost” do not contradict either Christian principles or the principles of Islam or Buddhism, so there have been no serious interreligious conflicts in the history of Russia.
Russian civilization was created as aggregation of peasant territorial (that is, interethnic, not based solely on ethnic and national principles) communities of numerous tribes of Eastern Slavs over vast territory of millions of square kilometers. These communities were mainly small villages, of several families, separated from each other by long distances. These tens of thousands of communities were scattered on lands covered with dense forests that were less fertile and less suitable for intensive farming than lands of Western Europe. These village-communities were interconnected by rivers and lakes that could be used in both summer and winter, when covered with ice.
Territorial peasant communities made up more than 85% of Russia’s population for thousands of years, almost until the second quarter of the twentieth century, when the industrialization breakthrough took off in the USSR.
Members of territorial communities could not afford individual freedom in the Western European sense or relations based on competition and rivalry between members within and between communities. East Slavic communities that became the basis of Russian civilization, could survive only on the basis of fundamentally different principles, rules of conduct and relationships.
The primary form of ownership and use of agricultural land, surrounding forests, rivers and natural resources, as well as richness of wild life, could only be communal property that had overwhelming priority over private property.
Preservation and continuation of race and families depended on the availability of healthy men and women, their mutual assistance and devotion to the community that allowed to survive in difficult climatic conditions, especially in those territories that were subjected to raids from outside and invasions.
Due to their small number, community members could not create families within communities, unless there was an influx of new members, who came from outside tribes. They had to create families with members of other communities and marry off their girls, resettling them in other communities, and this forced them not only to develop ties and contacts, but also to maintain relations of trust and mutual respect between communities, to ensure that communities and families, including women, were known as reliable, strong and able to survive in harsh conditions and raise healthy offspring. So, the Russian communities lived for centuries according to uniform rules and moral standards, regardless of state laws.
Relations in such territorial communities were built on the basis of trust, mutual support, loyalty and “spravedlivost”, and at the same time readiness for extremely harsh conflict in the event of a threat or attack. It was spravedlivost, not individual freedom of choice, that underlay relations in Russian civilization, ensuring loyalty to the community and trust of communitarians to each other.
Those who broke out of these restrictions on individual freedom, put their interests above those of the community, showed selfishness, individualism, deceived or tried to live at the expense of other communitarians, were not respected, they were hated and expelled. Those who were weak, sick, ugly, wounded, could not continue their lineage or perform work on equal footing with others, they were pitied, protected, supported, but not considered as value of the family and community. Anyone who violated the rules and regulations of relations and caused harm or damage to community was punished, expelled, and in the event of a conflict or crime, was killed.
Moreover, the concept of «Russian justice» — “spravedlivost”, does not have an adequate and accurate translation into any of the Western European languages, including English. There is no such concept in Western European languages. As well as the word «freedom» in the Russian language – “svoboda”, as well as word «вільність» in the Ukrainian language, are not quite correct and adequate translation of the word «freedom» in the sense of the British or Americans.
Read more about the discrepancy of concepts in different civilizations here — The Conflict of Civilizations or The Russian House that Jack Built » Валерий Морозов (valerymorozov.com)-, or https://valerymorozov.com/news/3046 , and here — Мир на переломе, часть 6 » Валерий Морозов (valerymorozov.com) — https://valerymorozov.com/news/2659
The same discrepancy between the most important, central concepts is characteristic of all languages of different civilizations. For example, neither of European languages, including English, French or German, nor Russian language, can give correct translation of the central concept of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism — «dharma». The words «morality», «order», «way», «law» can not fully and correctly convey the meaning of «dharma». The same can be said about the Chinese «dao»…
Ancient Russia rejected Catholicism, other confessions and religions precisely because Russian civilization differed from Western European, Arab and Jewish. Ancient Russia chose Orthodoxy as the closest Christian denomination to the communal mentality of the Eastern Slavs and remained faithful to Orthodoxy throughout its history.
All attempts to modify Orthodoxy and the Russian Orthodox Church, to introduce Catholicism, other confessions and Western influences into it met with resistance from the communal Russia. That resistance grew as attempts to change the foundations of Russian civilization increased, reaching existential level, up to rebellion, uprising, overthrow of rulers, military conflict and destruction or expulsion of those who tried to change Russian civilization.
Factor 2. The Christian moral principles, values, as well as church traditions, rules, norms that influenced formation of democracy in Western Europe, including relations in society and state.
If Factor 1 was the content of Western civilization, as water fills the river, Factor 2 shaped Western civilization as channel forms the river flow.
However, there were complex relationships between these two Factors. Individualism and liberal nature of Western civilization interacted with Christianity and influenced development of Christianity and formation of Christian denominations. It was in Western Europe that the Catholic Church was created, and then other Western Christian churches, confessions, as well as non-traditional churches, sects and teachings that reflected individual characteristics and historical stages of development of European peoples.
But the main sphere of influence of liberalism was politics and ideology, and as its influence in the political sphere grew, liberalism gradually changed the nature of Western democracy, reducing the zone of influence of Christianity, its moral values, removing economics and politics from under the influence of Christian morality, and also limiting influence of other religions that penetrated into Europe and North America.
It was Western European democracy that created conditions for rapid development of capitalism in Europe and later in other regions of the world, and it was democracy that created the most complex socio-political system that allows the largest possible number of groups, parties and fractions to actively fight for power and their interests.
At the initial stage, only European democracies considered such diversity as achievement and virtue. Other civilizations considered that diversity as disadvantage and «perversion». However, gradually the West took advantage of its growing dominance in the world economy, science, international politics and military, and imposed on political and scientific elites of other civilizations the idea that diversity of political structures and ideologies is beneficial for their societies and states, that it is the key to their successful, rapid and effective development.
However, it turned out that these characteristics and properties of Western democracy not only allow to accelerate development of economy and society, but in certain conditions reduce effectiveness of state and social structures, financial systems, create chaotization of political and economic processes and even block the development, primarily of democracies themselves.
That sweet and dangerous Freedom
One of the inherent characteristics of Western democracy has been the growing fragmentation of social and political structures, including organizations, groups, parties and movements. The source of this fragmentation is liberalism devoid of severe moral constraints. Liberalism provides individuals and groups with freedom of action, that stimulates fragmentation and ensures priority to development of such human qualities as individualism, rivalry, initiative, desire for domination, wealth, self-expression and recognition.
These features of Western civilization, throughout its history, contributed to accelerated growth of culture, science, industries and ideologies, generated variability and increased areas and directions of activities, including in culture and science. These characteristics of Western civilization contributed to development of the scientific base and accumulation of knowledge in different fields, as well as in the political sphere, and that led to creation of democratic electoral system, party system with international unions of parties and organizations. In the religious sphere, that led to creation of different confessions of Christianity, sects and non-traditional religions, as well as atheism of all kinds and directions.
However, when process of fragmentation of society and state reached a certain level, Western democracy started facing problems.
At the end of the 19th century and especially in the 20th century, the development of education, science and technology, as well as information exchange led to sharp increase in competition in political sphere and accelerated the processes of fragmentation of political organizations, parties and ideological movements. Three technological modes have replaced each other within one century, involving not only industries and agriculture, but also science, education, culture, social relations in all spheres of human life, as well as systems of political and public administration and propaganda, transforming them into new quality, not always with positive results.
This acceleration occurred not only in the West, but in all countries of the world. However, it was Western civilization that played the role of «locomotive» in this process.
At the end of the 19th century, the process of fragmentation of society, population, ideologies, classes, parties into smaller groups, parties and fractions, clans, ideological movements, often in conflict with each other, some of them very aggressive and hating each other, began to rapidly accelerate with increasing intensity, aggressiveness and with deeper consequences. This led to weakening of the influence of Christianity, to changes in morality and mentality, intellectual level of people, including political elites.
Conflict and rivalry began to dominate relations, including in politics and business, but above all and without any deterrents, in international relations.
At the same time, new moral principles brought changes in the systems of political interactions that led to the fact that the role of small groups and political currents was constantly increasing.
Small began to affect Big more and more. By the end of the twentieth century, large organizations, political movements, parties, and civic associations increasingly found themselves dependent on small organizations and elements of society.
Small began to determine fate of Big to an increasing degree, including in international politics, where small states, though unable to survive on their own, began to subordinate policies of large states to their interests and influence decision-making of their political elites.
Small states started acting mostly by stimulating conflicts, contradictions, threats, thereby acquiring significance and forcing major powers to listen to them, reckon with their interests, to receive additional investments and financial assistance.
It was democracy and liberalism that created conditions for small countries to gain leverage over big politics. These trends began to manifest themselves especially clearly at the end of the XX century in the EU and NATO.
This also happened in business, where people from small states, the ethnic minorities began to form their ethnic groupings in big international corporations, not just to support each other, but to use their influence shaping corporations’ policies, first of all, in relation to their states, but also to entire regions.
Those groups, created on ethnic, clan and often ideological basis, began to define business strategies of corporations on the territory of states and on international level, forming it in their own interests. More, through big corporations these groups manage to influence policies of major powers, including the United States and European states. Globalism has become the powerful tool not only against, but also in the interests of national minorities.
In the early 1990s, multinational corporations hired mostly Russians to set up businesses in the countries of the former USSR. However, since late 1990s, the majority of employees, including managers, who controlled business in the post-Soviet space, including Russia, have been selected from other countries and other nationalities. At present, there are almost no Russian citizens, especially ethnic Russians, among the employees of the largest transnational corporations, research institutes and think tanks. Among the national composition, the Ukrainians occupy the first place by wide margin, followed by people from the Baltic states and Kazakhs. Moreover, all of them not only have negative attitude towards Putin and Russia, and are afraid of Russian influence, but most of them are opposed to the current leadership in their own countries. In this situation, it is difficult to assume that management of corporations and think tanks receives and transfers to politicians the objective information about situation in the post-Soviet states.
However, there was one more factor that played crucial role in transformation of the idea of democracy. The transition of ideologies into the political sphere and application of ideas in political, party and clan struggle lead to fetishization of ideas, theories and ideologies, deadening and mummifying them, turning them from living ideas that develop and are oriented towards the development of people and society, into tools, bullets and projectiles of the political struggle for power.
This happened to Marxism as well. As soon as Vladimir Lenin said and then wrote in an article published in 1913: “The teaching of Marx is omnipotent because it is true,” the fetishization of Marxism became fact, its creative rethinking and development became impossible and was seen as attempt to distort Marxism, to split the communist movement.
Fortunately, for Russian communists and Soviet Russia, Vladimir Lenin, after seizing power in Russia in 1917 and winning in the civil war, realized that Marxism cannot be a dogma or a fetish, that it is necessary to take into account realities and if necessary to change what seemed unshakable. Unfortunately for Russian communists and Soviet Russia, Lenin died early, in 1924, and his successors used Marxism and the ideas of Lenin himself as tools in their clan struggle.
Joseph Stalin, who won in that struggle, was neither theoretician, nor philosopher, nor great creative ideologist, and he knew that. He did what he could and was forced to, choosing paths that neither Marx nor Lenin said anything about, and sometimes violating their commandments and covenants. The main task for Stalin was to protect the USSR and win the war. However, after the war, he realized that without living theory, without understanding of how to build communism and what exactly communist society should be, the first communist experiment would fail. «Without theory we are dead!» — Stalin said, but the Soviet communists, accustomed to operating and using mummified Marxism, could not create new theory. Marxism was turned into a tool for constructing the militarised economy, suppressing dissent and enriching the bureaucracy and criminal groups associated with the Soviet bureaucratic elites, and that led to the failed attempt by Mikhail Gorbachev to restructure and modernised the militarised State that was created to win the War, but has lost its idea and vision, struggling to find its way…
The idea of Western democracy has also been turned into fetish by politicians. It became the banner, icon, weapon of struggle. It was turned into fortress from which politicians, emphasizing its inviolability and superiority, fired and fought against the outside world.
This became especially noticeable at the beginning of the 21st century. It was at this moment, that an event of historical significance took place, and that was the levelling of the economic, technical and scientific potentials and capabilities of the West and other civilizations.
From Dominance to Equality through Magic Mirror
The outdated methodology of calculating and comparing the GDP of different countries, the distorted ratio of the value of currencies and prices on the world market, the imbalances of the volumes of goods and services produced and the wrong estimation of their necessity for mankind, all that distorted and presented the fake picture of the real world. We see not reality, but distorted picture through Alice’s Magic Mirror.
In the real world, the process of levelling potentials of civilizations, including China, India, Russia, Latin America, with the potential of the United States and the EU, approached the «red line» beyond which the struggle to change the world order was bound to begin.
The crossing of the «red line» was ensured by Covid-19, that crippled primarily the economies and financial systems of the Western countries.
The Covid “crisis” also showed that in the XXI century, the modern development of civilizations in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East proceeded mostly not through transfer of industrial production and technologies from the West by international corporations and through export of Western ideas, rules and norms, but through combination of the latest technologies and production with traditional business methods created by these civilizations over the centuries.
It turned out that the basic traditional moral values, rules and forms of relationships in the family, in society and state that had been preserved during the period of domination of Western civilization although transformed in interaction with Western culture, gave noticeable positive effect in the economy, science and education.
At the beginning of the 21st century, it became clear that the interaction of different civilizations and cultures brings positive results, if none of the civilizations subdue others and impose their own rules and values on them. However, the lack of mutual understanding and imposing the Western values on other civilizations, the attempts to force them to accept the norms and rules of Western democracy, along with positive results, created some irresolvable, antagonistic contradictions within the civilizations and between them and the West.
The growing part of the population of developing countries came to believe that some moral standards, as well as norms and rules imported from the West that were considered as advanced and most effective for several decades and even centuries, suddenly turned out not only ineffective, but also to hinder development. They created unproductive and excessive spendings, meaningless and unnecessary splits and conflicts in societies. That became dramatically noticeable with the onset of the global energy crisis.
It also turned out that in the 21st century, much of what worked effectively in the United States and European countries has become redundant, inefficient, diverting resources, means and energy of society and state for wasteful targets and creating unnecessary conflicts and tensions within Western civilization itself.
In most of civilizations, that caused chaotization of society that led to social unrest and popular protests. Rejection of these wasteful rules and «values» gave China, India and Russia the opportunity to maintain stability, to reveal more fully the potential of their civilizations, strengthened traditional internal relationships.
Moreover, each of the civilizations saw what was happening with others. Having watched Russia closely for several decades, China has seen that much of what the USSR and then Russia borrowed from the West worked not just inefficiently, but with negative result. When Russia was forced to abandon copying of the Western system and to return to its own path, the revival of economy and defense capabilities began, as well as stabilization of its social system.
Russia, watching China, understood that China learned from Russia’s mistakes. However, China’s strength was not only in this. China has not abandoned its civilizational peculiarity and managed to transform what it imported from the West, including the communist idea, into its Chinese version, without abandoning it, waiting for new version of Marxism to appear that will correspond to the new level of technological, information and social development. It was the “Chinese transformation» of the achievements of Western civilization that allowed Beijing to become the first economy in the world.
India watched the same. Latin America has seen and experienced the same, as the Arab world, Turkey, Africa and other peoples, who began to understand the value of their identities and consciously tried to preserve or restore their civilizational basis for development.
However, the ability of Russia, China, India, and other countries and civilizations to shape their domestic policies was restrained. The system of international relations, including the international monetary system, the financial and trade institutions and regulators, international political organizations, education and information exchange systems, that were formed during the period of unipolar world and dominance of the West, imposed restrictions on independent development of civilizations.
One of the main levers that the West used to control the outside world was ideology. Deviations from the rules and norms of Western democracy, despite significant changes that took place in the US and Europe, were assessed by the West as «crime against freedom», «violation of human rights», «manifestation of authoritarianism». These charges were brought even in cases where “violations” didn’t deviate from moral standards common to the main religions, including Christianity that was the foundation of Western democracy itself, and only reflected peculiarities of mentality and local traditions.
Accusations of authoritarianism, violation of human rights and freedoms were often made, regardless of consequences that the introduction of new Western freedoms could lead to within the violating countries. It was also not always taken into account that rejection of traditional rules and norms by other civilizations in favor of Western freedoms and democratic rules could lead to violation of balances in societies and even tragic consequences, including for those whose rights, according to the norms and perceptions of Western democracies, were violated.
The entire system of international relations was built in the way that the United States and Europe could control development of any region, its domestic policy, rules and norms of social and economic relations, their vectors of social and economic development, although the share of the West in world production, natural and intellectual resources, real values, despite of all distortions in calculations and evaluations, was sharply and constantly declining.
At the same time, in order to maintain its image and ensure its dominance and control over the world, the West has been increasing its spending at exorbitant pace, often presenting its miscalculations and failures as achievements or as some kind of sacrifice in the name of the ideas of democracy.
In fact, created on Christian values and the principles of freedom and equality, Western civilization over the past decades of absolute domination has gradually begun to turn into a «Big Brother» in the eyes of the outside world, the same “Big Brother” that it once sought to protect the world. The world turned out to be divided, and the West found itself in confrontation with 85% of the world’s population.
That is why the conflict between the West and other civilizations was brewing primarily in the sphere of international relations and showed up in the form of demand by group of dissenters for the necessary, from their point of view, changes in the principles of the world order and ensuring equality and security for all civilizations, not only military security, but also financial, economic and ideological.
The conflict became inevitable for two reasons:
The first reason is that the ruling elites of the West rejected all proposals to change the system of international relations, considering that useless or harmful, not wanting to sacrifice their interests. All attempts and action plans aimed at changing the world order, challenging the leadership of the United States and the EU, were perceived solely as intrigues and attempts to undermine the world order.
The political leadership and business elites in the West, pushed and incited by small countries in fear of losing their influence being outside the Council of Civilizations, failed to understand what was going on in the outside world and to begin interaction and negotiations on creation of new world order.
The time of these elites has passed. Those who succeed the current leaders, but fail to reshape policies will also come under increasing pressure. They will fight for the old world, having their sentence in their hands and having no chance of retaining power to save the old order.
The second reason. Equality for minority at the same time as inequality for majority can only be maintained if majority is not aware of its unequal position or does not have the power to, having realized the inequality, stand up for their rights and achieve equality.
At the end of 2021, the moment came when the fundamental change in the balance of power in the world became apparent. At the end of the twentieth century, as a result of the collapse of the USSR, the USA and Europe became stronger, more powerful and richer than the rest of the world.
However, in early 2022, the US and NATO found themselves unable to guarantee victory in military direct confrontation or in economic conflict with the alliance between Russia and China that the two Eurasian superpowers had begun to forge.
Nevertheless, the US and NATO decided to fight, albeit a hybrid way, simultaneously with China and Russia, risking not only to strengthen their alliance, but to unite almost the rest of the world around Moscow and Beijing.
This decision was made despite the obvious risks, warnings and opposition from influential and experienced politicians and the military, including Henry Kissinger… Why?
(To be continued)